Zooarchaeology (ARCM407)

StaffProfessor Alan Outram - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level7
Pre-requisitesNot to have taken ARC2504, undergraduate Zooarchaeology module
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The module will outline the theory and practice of zooarchaeology, giving basic practical competence in the technique and a practical appreciation of observation, recording and interpretation issues. You will attain basic competence in the identification and recording of bones from some common animal species and will be gain an understanding of how to analyse such data. You will be acquainted with how bone assemblages can be interpreted to give us a fuller picture of past cultures, economies and environments in different archaeological periods.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Critically understand the key theoretical concepts of zooarchaeology
  • 2. Use terms and conventions commonly employed in zooarchaeology
  • 3. Demonstrate competence in the identification of the bones from key mammal species
  • 4. Prepare and interpret zooarchaeological data
  • 5. Critically appreciate the ways in which animal bone assemblages can tell us about past cultures, economies and environment in different archaeological periods

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 6. Show initiative in interpreting a variety of information forms
  • 7. Assimilate/manage numerical and graphical data
  • 8. Deploy data from technical reports

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 9. Manage data and display it graphically
  • 10. Acquire a range of observational and analytical skills which are applicable in the wider world
  • 11. Ask pertinent questions, contribute to group discussions, and co-operate with and learn from peers

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Throughout the course there will be sessions related to learning the identification of key bone elements from key species.

Other topics:

  • The skeleton and nomenclature
  • Taphonomy
  • Quantification; skeletal part abundance and transport
  • Seasonality
  • Age at death from bone fusion and dental eruption and wear
  • Sexing criteria: metrical and non-metrical traits
  • Domestication and breed development
  • Reconstructing herd structures
  • Sheep/goat separation
  • Butchery, bone fracture, pathology
  • Approaches to assemblage analysis

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching33Made up of approximately 11 hours of lecture and live discussion content, approximately 11 hours of guided data analysis exercises and 11 hours of guided practical engagement with archaeological bone material.
Guided independent study117Independent study for assignments and use of computer aided learning and reference resources regarding bone identification.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Tutorial discussion0.5 hours1, 5, 11Oral feedback in tutorial

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Skills Test20A short test of zooarchaeological key skills3, 10Return of marked test sheet
Project One: analysing zooarchaeological data402000 words1-2, 4-10Mark and written comments and tutorial discussion
Project Two: analysing zooarchaeological data402000 words1-2, 4-10Mark and written comments

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Skills TestA short test of zooarchaeological key skills3, 10Referral/Deferral period
Project OneProject One1-2, 4-10Referral/Deferral period
Project TwoProject Two1-2, 4-10Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 50%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will be capped at 50%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Davis, S.J.M. (1987). The Archaeology of Animals.London: Batsford
  • Dobney, K.M., Jaques, S.D. and Irving, B.G. (1995). Of Butchers and Breeds: report on the vertebrate remains from the City of Lincoln. Lincoln: Lincoln Archaeological Studies 5.
  • Driesch A.E. von den (1976). A Guide to the Measurement of Animal Bones from Archaeological Sites.Peabody Museum Bulletin 1.
  • Legge, A.J. and Rowley-Conwy, P.A. (1988). Star Carr Revisited. London: Centre for Extra Mural Studies.
  • Lyman, R.L. (1994). Vertebrate Taphonomy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Reitz, E.J. and Wing, E.A. (2008). Zooarchaeology (2nd  Ed.).Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Rowley-Conwy, P.A. Ed. (2000). Animal Bones, Human Societies. Oxford: Oxbow Monographs.

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

  • Departmental animal bone reference collection
  • Computer aided learning materials for animal bone identification

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Zooarchaeology, Taphonomy, Animals, Zoology